Sources: Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is restating something. It is very similar to a summary; the most obvious difference between them is length. You typically use summaries for text that is too long to paraphrase. A paraphrase will usually be approximately the same length as the original source text. The page number is not required in the in-text citation for a paraphrase, but it is encouraged.

An effective paraphrase—

  • is written in your own words.
  • keeps the original meaning (does not add or take away important ideas or relationships).
  • does not keep the structure of the original while only changing some words for synonyms.
  • is approximately the same length as the original.

Below is an excerpt from a website article that describes how to own a successful restaurant.

Example Original Source

"Consistent with our hypothesis, subtle red color cues significantly reduced the consumption of soft drinks (Study 1) and salty snacks (Study 2) compared to blue or white color cues.

We argue that red elicits avoidance motivation through its culturally learned and biologically embedded associations with danger, prohibition, and stop. It is important to note that red seems to act as a direct cue for consumption control without having an influence on consumption experience. (Genschow, et al. 2011, p. 702)

Example Paraphrase

The research by Genschow et al. (2011) demonstrated that the color red can cause dramatic decrease in participants consuming snack food and soda when compared to other colors, without impacting the overall experience of eating and drinking. The authors suggest this is likely due to the color red having a negative cultural connotation.

General steps for writing a paraphrase:

  1. Read or listen to what you will paraphrase.
  2. Divide the sentence into parts and make sure you understand what each part means.
  3. Identify any logical connectors (e.g., because, and, while, in contrast, etc.).
  4. Rephrase each of the parts of the sentence (using synonyms, word forms, etc.).
  5. Put the sentence back together.
  6. Compare the paraphrase to the original.

Read/Listen to source

As with a summary, before you can write an effective paraphrase, you need to have a solid understanding of the source text. You should look up any new words in the original text if possible.

Divide the sentence

Many English sentences combine clauses and phrases together, and you will need to understand each of the clauses before you can paraphrase a sentence. Start by dividing the sentence into clauses (a clause has a subject and a verb). If you can't look at the sentence and find the main verbs quickly, you can try crossing out or simplifying phrases that don't have verbs or that you can identify as adjective clauses. Remember that your goal is to find the verbs so you can find the clauses.

Identify any logical connectors

The way that two clauses are joined shows you the relationship that they have. Here are some common connectors and their general relationship:

cause/effect:because, since, due to, as a result, consequently, thus, therefore
contrast:however, but, in contrast, on the other hand, whereas, although
example: for example, for instance
time/order: when, before, after, while, during, since, until, then, next, last, first, second

Rephrase each part

Here are some strategies for rephrasing clauses and phrases. Most paraphrases combine several strategies.

  1. Use synonyms
    • EX: the linguistic impact > the influence of language
  2. Use equal transition words/conjunctions (if possible)
    • EX: because > since
  3. Change from active to passive voice
    • EX: Nearly everyone uses phones. > Phones are used by almost everyone.
  4. Change word forms
    • EX: Communication is easy. > Communication happens easily.
  5. Change the grammatical subject of the sentence or clause
    • EX: You can be misunderstood. > Misunderstandings happen.
  6. Change an adjective into an adjective clause
    • EX: new types of communication > types of communication that are new

Return to the example given and look at how each part of the sentence was changed.

Put the sentence back together

After you have changed the sentence parts, you can put it back together. Many people change the order of the clauses at this point. Make sure that the structure of the paraphrase is different than the original structure.

Compare to the original

Make sure you changed the structure, but not the meaning.

You now know how to use sources in three ways. You can use quotes, paraphrases, and summaries. These ways to use sources are similar in some ways and different in others. 

A paraphrasethe source in your own words and about the same length as the original
A quotethe source in the author's exact words
A paraphrasethe source in your own words and about the same length as the original
A summarythe source in your own words and shorter than the original


Exercise 1: Choose the best paraphrase

Choose the best paraphrase for each original quote:

#1. Original:

"On busy tourist days, as many as 70,000 people wander through the majestic gardens and opulent interiors of the Taj Mahal" (Katz, 2018).

  1. Visitors to the Taj Mahal's gardens and interiors total up to 70,000 during peak visit times (Katz, 2018).
  2. A lot of people visit the Taj Mahal (Katz, 2018).
  3. On really busy days, as many as 70,000 people visit the majestic gardens and opulent interiors of the Taj Mahal (Katz, 2018).
  4. Because the Taj Mahal has beautiful grounds and amazing interiors, up to 70,000 people want to visit it (Katz, 2018).

#2. Original:

"Artificial intelligence and automation are bringing changes to higher education that will challenge, and may even threaten, in-person learning" (Kak, 2018)

  1. Advances in technology are happening because higher education is threatening in-person learning (Kak, 2018).
  2. In-person learning is challenging new technologies like artificial intelligence and automation (Kak, 2018).
  3. Traditional classes may be endangered by the ways that higher education is changing due to artificial intelligence and automation (Kak, 2018).
  4. Technology is replacing teachers and regular in-person classroom experiences with artificial intelligence (Kak, 2018).

#3. Original:

"Its social and cultural effects were staggering, especially in the United States, where the Great Depression represented the harshest adversity faced by Americans since the Civil War" (Romer & Pells, 2023, para. 1).

  1. The Civil War impacted the United States more than the Great Depression.
  2. The biggest struggle for the United States since the Civil War was the Great Depression, which significantly impacted the society and culture of America.
  3. The Civil War was caused by the Great Depression because of its harsh adversities.
  4. The United States could not overcome the social and cultural effects of the Great Depression, which was the harshest adversity after the Civil War.

Exercise 2: Write paraphrases

Write a paraphrase for the original sentences below.

1. Original: "As transportation networks expand and urban areas grow, noise from sources such as vehicle engines is spreading into remote places" (Buxton, 2017, para. 1).


2. Original: "When we experience stress too often or for too long, or when the negative feelings overwhelm our ability to cope, then problems will arise" (Blake, 2017, para. 3).


3. Original: "Innovation can grow from constraint, from limiting a creator's options and forcing him or her to rethink and reinvent within those boundaries" (Palmer, 2017, para. 1).


4. Original: "Although the continuous development of capitalism as a system dates only from the 16th century, antecedents of capitalist institutions existed in the ancient world, and flourishing pockets of capitalism were present during the later European Middle Ages" (Heilbroner et al., 2023).


Exercise 3: Write a quote, summary, and paraphrase

Using the paragraph below, write a quotation, a summary, and a paraphrase. For the quotation and the paraphrase, choose one sentence. For the summary, summarize the entire paragraph. Include the correct citation for each.

Author: Van Camp

Year: 2016

Paragraph: 29

"Emoji started as prettier versions of text emoticons like the smiley face or sad face, but have quickly grown into much more. There are now 1,922 emoji on the iPhone. Hundreds of faces, objects, flags, families of every skin color, activities, and more now have an emoji image. Apple is such a fan that in iOS 10, a feature will suggest emoji replacements for words."

Exercise 4: Write a quote, summary, or paraphrase

Using the paragraph below, write a quotation, a summary, or a paraphrase. For the quotation and the paraphrase, choose one sentence. For the summary, summarize the entire paragraph. Include the correct citation.

Author: Reed

Year: 2014

Paragraph: 2

"The words that surround us every day influence the words we use. Since so much of the written language we see is now on the screens of our computers, tablets, and smartphones, language now evolves partly through our interaction with technology. And because the language we use to communicate with each other tends to be more malleable than formal writing, the combination of informal, personal communication and the mass audience afforded by social media is a recipe for rapid change."


Blake, H. (2017, August 17). What happens to your body when you're stressed. The Conversation. 

Buxton, R. (2017, July 17). Human noise pollution is disrupting parks and wild places. The Conversation. 

Genschow, O., Reutner, L., Wänke, M. (2011). The color red reduces snack food and soft drink intake. Appetite, 58, 699-702. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.12.023 

Heilbroner, R. L. and Boettke, . Peter J. (2023, February 27). capitalism. Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Kak, S. (2018). Will traditional colleges and universities become obsolete? Smithsonian Magazine. 

Katz, B. (2018). India to cap number of Taj Mahal visitors. Smithsonian Magazine. 

Palmer, A. (2017, October 13). Have we been building chairs all wrong? Smithsonian Magazine. 

Reed, J. (2014). How social media is changing language. The Journal. 

Romer, C. D. and Pells, . Richard H. (2023, March 3). Great DepressionEncyclopedia Britannica. 

Van Camp, J. (2016). Tech is upending the ways we write, speak, and even think. Digital Trends 

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